It's always sad to me when a film manages to attract a great cast, and… MoreIt's always sad to me when a film manages to attract a great cast, and squanders a good amount of its potential. It has happened before, of course, usually with movies like Valentine's Day and Movie 43. And though Out of the Furnace squanders less of that potential than some, it's a shame to see the talents of Christian Bale, Forest Whitaker, and Woody Harrelson applied to such one-note characters.
From the writer and director of the Oscar-winning Crazy Heart, I expected better than this leaden, safe revenge thriller. None of the characters spend any time doing anything other than growling and glaring at each other, so that eventually everything starts to blur together into a tedious collection of scenes that fail to congeal into a whole.
But it's not all bad news. The film is well directed, and appropriately gritty, and though the actors are hugely overqualified, they do well enough with what they're given. But this isn't enough to make Out of the Furnace anything other than a gratuitously slow and predictable movie that thinks of itself as being more than it is.
Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The… MoreIron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. The AVengers is the ultimate culmination of all those movies, which ranged in quality from slightly above-average to excellent. In my review of the first Iron Man, I called it the pinnacle of Marvel cinema. It has now been topped.
The story goes that after Captain America, the Tesseract ended up at the bottom of the ocean, and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled it out. Now Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants it, due to its inherently unlimited power, which will give him the ability to rule with an iron fist over all of Earth. Unless the Avengers can get past their differences and stop him.
I have recently come to the opinion that director and screenplay heavily influence acting (this may be a bit late to realize this, but whatever). It certainly seems to be true in this case. Joss Whedon is apparently great fun to work with, and his writing talent is well-known. Both of these might be reasons why each actor performs better in this movie than in previous Marvel films. The highlights are Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, each playing characters with hidden emotional depth that boils to the surface in the most commendable of ways (especially the latter actor, for obvious reasons). Though this trio leads the pack, said pack is composed entirely of very strong performances, something not usually seen in ensembles, but which Whedon pulls together with the greatest of ease.
Joss Whedon originally signed on for this project in April of 2010. He threw out former writer Zak Penn's screenplay and replaced it with his own. No disrespect to Mr. Penn, but I sincerely doubt his version was better-written than this. Whedon's script shines brightly in nearly every conversation, each one punctuated with his trademark, never-miss humor. ANother thing Joss is known for is the characterization he imbues his writing with. From Buffy to The Cabin in the Woods, Whedon has never created a character that is anything less than compelling, a rule that still applies, even to a cast as large and star-studded as this. Interestingly (and wisely), this doesn't feel like Joss Whedon's The Avengers. This realy does feel like Marvel's The Avengers, with Joss's cherry on top. The characters still match perfectly with their prevous cinematic versions. The character development is so strong, in fact, that in battle, none of the characters feel like more superpowered thugs; they are actual people, fighting for their lives and humanity.
Of course, superhero movies aren't usually known for their characters. The special effects department really outdoes itself in this film. From the netherregions of outer space to the showdown between Iron Man and Thor, visually the film never fails to dazzle. The action sequences are filmed and edited with a sort of grace, with Whedon's signature shaky-cam and midshot zooms thrown in occasionally for good measure. Unlike most movies, the action scenes are not edited in quick shots. The camera rotates around our heroes as they kick extraterrestrial ass, and various other tachniques are employed to keep action shots as long as possbile. Though unconventional, this ensures that the action is just as absorbing as the dialogue, and works well to this effect, allowing both of those aspects to support each other. This attribute is extremely hard to come by in movies, but where you can find it, treasure it.
Upon leaving this film (which I only did after the final credits had rolled), many of those leaving with me were laughing and talking animatedly about this film, recallign various ecenes and how the quality fared in relation to other comic book films. My opinion is that this is the second-greatest one of the bunch, second only to The Dark Knight (story and thematic depth beat witty banter and numerous explosions any day). However, for those simply looking to be entertained, right now, you simply can't do any better than this.
British director Steve McQueen (not that one) has made three movies,… MoreBritish director Steve McQueen (not that one) has made three movies, each being harder to watch than the last. He takes subjects that inherently feature as showcases of man's potential cruelty. His last film, Shame, featured Michael Fassbender as a man for whom the act of sex holds no appeal, no matter how he tried to rectify it. 12 Years a Slave, though not as painful, is no less powerful. As with Shame, it features an incredible lead performance, this time by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He plays Solomon Northup, a born-free black man who was kidnapped off the streets of Washington D.C. and sold into slavery.
In addition to the performances, the main stars are the art direction and score. McQueen has a clear eye for striking imagery, but only when he finds time for it amidst the atrocity. Hans Zimmer, the composer who made his name with The Dark Knight and Inception, brings just the right amount of menace to the film's soundtrack, and ends up as one of his more understated works. So while 12 Years is certainly not for everyone, it's something everyone should see.
The first Thor film was something of an oddity, possessing much more… MoreThe first Thor film was something of an oddity, possessing much more of a comedic element than Marvel's other cinematic offerings. This gave it personality, and made it the better of Marvel's two 2011 films (the other being Captain America). The sequel, though by no means lacking in the laughs department, takes a darker approach to the continuity, with considerably more action than its predecessor. The acting is still commendable across the board, but it is Tom Hiddleston who delivers the breakout performance, perfectly showcasing the pent-up rage Loki has against the world that has exiled him.
This time, Asgard is under seige by an ancient enemy known as the Dark Elves. The action has a sort of stormtroopers-vs.-Ewoks vibe, as the Dark Elves cut down the sword-wielding Asgardians with energy-based projectile weapons. While it's obvious that Asgard will not be destroyed this early in the storyline, it does indicate that forthcoming Marvel tales might not be as light as they were in the past.
The novel this film adapted is seen a classic, considered by some to… MoreThe novel this film adapted is seen a classic, considered by some to be the greatest science fiction novel of all time. The last time I read it, I was too young to really understand what was going on, so when the movie was announced, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look into the story again.
Though the film is no classic, it's held up by solid writing and performances. While Hailee Steinfeld is a bit disappointing (never thought I'd say that), Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford remain eminently watchable, both bringing the appropriate amount of charisma to their respective roles. It's also well directed, and you can see director Gavin Hood invisibly manipulating the sometimes dozens of characters and objects on screen with a delicate deftness.
While Card's story shines through, the transition from pages to the screen feels a bit haphazard. The plot is rushed along, hurrying through dialog in order to reach the occasionally drawn-out action sequences. It's by no means incoherent, but more focus on the characters (and perhaps a longer run time) could have gone a long way.